Tuesday, August 30, 2016

AUGUST 30 = First African-American Astronaut Blasts Off!!



On today's date, August 30 in 1983, U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Guion S. Bluford became the first African American to take part in a mission to space when the space shuttle Challenger embarked on its third mission, STS 8.  As this was the first night lift-off of a space shuttle, it blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 2:32 a.m.

Buford Studies and Flies Hard and Makes an Astronaut

Born in Philadelphia in 1942, Guion "Guy" Stewart Bluford II at an early age showed an interest in flight, and building airplanes. He graduated from Penn State with a degree in aerospace engineering. He joined the U.S. Air Force and got his pilot wings in 1965. He was assigned to a fighter squadron in Vietnam, where he flew 144 combat missions. Later, Guy received a master’s degree and doctorate in aerospace engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. There were 10,000 applicants to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) space program, Guy Bluford wound up as one of 35 chosen to join the new space shuttle team in January 1978. And in August 1979 he officially became an astronaut with NASA.

Shuttle Mission STS 8

On mission STS-8 aboard the space shuttle Challenger, Bluford had the job of a specialist for mission.   Bluford and and his crew mates (below) performed several biophysiological experiments, while successfully 
operating a Canadian-built robot arm while Challenger orbited Earth 98 times over the course of 145 hours. On September 5, 1983, the mission concluded when Challenger landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California. And just as she had left, Challenger returned in a night landing. (Pictured: Seated (L-R): Daniel C. Brandenstein, Pilot, Richard H. Truly, Commander, and Guion S. Bluford, Jr., Mission Specialist. Standing (L-R): Dale A. Gardner, Mission Specialist, and William E. Thornton, Mission Specialist.) Just as with her nocturnal departure, this night landing had been a first. Guion Buford went on to participate in a total four Space Shuttle flights between 1983 and 1992. After the tragic explosion of Challenger in 1986, Buford wanted to assure that space travel would continue so his last two missions were aboard the Shuttle Discovery. By the time of this final mission Buford had logged over 688 hours in space. Guion S. Buford retired from the Air Force in 1993, and has since worked with such companies as Northrop/Grumman. 

How Guion Buford Felt About Being the First African American Astronaut?

Not surprisingly, when asked this, Guy Buford felt a high degree of responsibility, not only as an African American, but also as a scientist and a space aviator:

"I felt an awesome responsibility, and I took the responsibility very seriously, of being a role model and opening another door to black Americans, but the important thing is not that I am black, but that I did a good job as a scientist and an astronaut. There will be black astronauts flying in later missions … and they, too, will be people who excel, not simply who are black . . . who can ably represent their people, their communities, their country." 






Thursday, August 11, 2016

AUGUST 11 = Reagan Jokes About Russia



While we're all bemoan- ing the "gaffes" of Donald Trump, and wringing our hands
about all of the ruin that they portend for our country, I thought that it might do some good to mark the anniversary of another celebrated "gaffe" made by a U.S. President which left a lot of people in fits of anger, which wound up doing no real harm whatsoever.  For it was today's date, August 11 in 1984 that President Ronald Reagan made his (in)famous joke about "Outlawing Russia" and "we begin bombing in five minutes."

Reagan's Actual Speech and What He MEANT to Say...

Reagan was making a regularly scheduled radio address, and he was
being checked for sound levels before he began.  He had already silently read the first line of his speech which went this way:

“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you that today I signed legislation that will allow student religious groups to begin enjoying a right they’ve too long been denied: the freedom to meet in public high schools during nonschool hours, just as other student groups are all owed to do.”

Having already seen this line, Reagan decided to engage in what was to him a bit of levity.  So during his few seconds of sound checking, he said: "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Although Reagan's press aides, as well as technicians and pool reporters in the room chuckled, a tape soon leaked. According
to Gannett News Service and the Associated Press, the joke was made in a ''voice check,'' in which technicians make adjustments to their recording equipment to the level of the President's voice. There were two networks present who elected not to  report it, those being CBS, and CNN.  The president of CNN,  Burt Reinhardt (right), remarked: ''We thought about it a great deal, talked about it a lot. But anything talked about before the radio broadcast would be off the record.''

The "Joke" Gets Out and Causes a Furor

But as usually happens in campaigns, word of the "joke" did get out and raised a furor.  Reagan was at the time running for re-election against former vice president Walter Mondale (below).  His get tough policies  visa-vie the Soviet Union were making a lot of people nervous at what seemed like the new level of confrontation. Reagan’s joke gave
even more fuel to those commentators and pundits both in the U.S. and abroad who believed that Reagan was
a senile old man who simply didn't understand the forces he was dealing with in his pursuit of his "Cowboy Diplomacy" In fact, "russiapedia.com" has since recorded this very dark reaction:
"The moment the president's flippant remark was released, it immediately caused a stir both in the United States and abroad. Most international media responded with outrage, fearing that the joke about "outlawing" the Soviet Union had once again put the two superpowers on the verge of a third world war.
Upon hearing the news, a leading Parisian newspaper, suggested in dismay that Reagan’s jest be tested by a trained psychologists to determine whether it was “a statement of repressed desire or the exorcism of a dreaded phantom.” As the imminent danger of such a comment was obvious, a Dutch news service ironically remarked, "Hopefully, the man tests his missiles more carefully," referring to the possibility of the Soviets turning their weapons toward the US after hearing such a threat."

But the fact is that White House officials quickly assured Russian officials what was the fairly obvious fact that it had all been a minor joke, although to some a tasteless one and that no attack was forthcoming. There were reports in some papers that the Soviet Far East Army was placed on alert and that the alert was not withdrawn until 30 minutes later. But nothing came of that. 30 minutes later
everything was fine. In the words of CNN Vice President, Ed Turner, "The President is a guy who drops one-liners. In this case it was a little careless of him, considering he's hardly a neophyte.'' 

The careless joke that had so many pundits crowing resulted in a minor jump in the polls for Walter Mondale for a short time.  But then Reagan regained the lead which he carried to a land slide win taking every state except Mondale's home state of Minnesota, and the District of Columbia. And during his second term, Reagan went on to establish the friendliest relations with the Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev (above) that had ever been seen between two such leaders before. The U.S. Arms build up coupled with the close relationship wound up bringing the "Cold War" to a victorious end for the West. And in all of those world changing events, the "gaffe" about "bombing in five minutes" was little more than a foot note to be discussed by Bloggers like me!




Sources =

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/reagan-jokes-about-bombing-russia

http://www.politico.com/story/2010/08/reagan-jokes-about-bombing-russia-august-11-1984-040921


 http://russiapedia.rt.com/on-this-day/august-11/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_begin_bombing_in_five_minutes








Monday, August 1, 2016

AUGUST 1 = Hitler Opens 1936 Olympics in Berlin



"The Olympic games held in Berlin in August of 1936 afforded the Nazis a golden opportunity to impress the world with the achievements of the Third Reich and they made the most of it.  The signs of  "Juden unerwuenscht" ("Jews not welcome") were quietly hauled down from the shops, hotels, beer gardens and places of public entertainment..."   - William Shirer

"almost religious event, the crowd screaming, swaying in unison and begging for Hitler. There was something scary about it; his cult of personality." - Thomas Wolfe

The Games of the XI Olympiad were opened on today's date, August 1 in 1936 in the city of Berlin, the capitol city of Germany. That nation was then governed by the murderous Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler, one of if not the foremost monster in history.  And I thought that with the games of the XXXI Olympiad coming up in Rio de Janeiro in just a few days, that it might be a good idea to take a look back at what happened when Hitler ran the opening show. Because even though, as William Shirer points out the Nazis were determined to put the brightest face on their ugly regime, to many such as the novelist Thomas Wolfe, there was something scary lurking beneath.

Berlin Builds the Biggest Stadium Ever

Berlin had been chosen over Barcelona, Spain, on 26 April 1931, at the 29th IOC Session two years before the Nazis came to power. Hitler was actually indifferent to sports, so it took some convincing on the part of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels to convince Der Fuehrer that the whole thing was worth the effort.  But now that Hitler's crew had the reigns, they were determined to out-do the 1932 Games in Los
Angeles. Towards which end, the Nazi regime sunk 42 million Reich- marks into a fabulous Olympic sports complex comprising some 325 acres. And the centerpiece was to be an enormous Olympic Stadium, built of stone and which could accommodate 110,000 spectators. These Opening Ceremonies were of course held in this brand new edifice beginning with the Parade of Nations (above). A speech by the head of Germany's Olympic Committee, and then Hitler declared the Games open.

The Opening Ceremony Shows Nazi Precision

The idea of having a torch relay first came up with the Amsterdam games of 1928, but it was Nazis who came up with the idea of having the torch relay originate in Olympia and then be carried all the way to the top off the stadium wherein it would burn throughout the games.

"The Guardian", a British newspaper summarized the precision of this opening ceremony in its edition of Aug. 3 :

"The opening ceremony of the eleventh Olympic Games took place here this afternoon in the Stadium at the Reich Sports Field. It was probably the longest ritual that has ever heralded the opening of these Games. It was arranged and carried out with mathematical exactitude by the German Organising Committee, and in the course of it there were moments of beauty and significance which one will remember.

"There were others - not many of them - when one felt that the strength of German national feeling had a little outgrown discretion, but it was a memorable ceremony, immensely enhanced by the nobility of the great Stadium in which it was carried out."

The Pigeons Finish It Off by Making a Deposit on the 1936 Olympics

But the military precision of it all, the determination to glorify the Nazi
regime and Hitler himself could not control everything. One bit of pomp turned to poop as related by an athlete who witnessed it, Distance Runner Louis Zamperini:

"They released 25,000 pigeons, the sky was clouded with pigeons, the pigeons circles overhead, and then they shot a cannon, and they scared the poop out of the pigeons, and we had straw hats, flat straw hats, and you could heard the pitter-patter on our straw hats, but we felt sorry for the women, for they got it in their hair, but I mean there were a mass of droppings, and I say it was so funny…"

The Thin Veneer of Nazi Hospitality at the 1936 Olympics

Uncooperative pigeons notwithstanding the truth of this regime and it's vicious anti-semitic, anti- religious character were always there lurking, except for the more gullible observer. As William Shirer wrote:

"the persecution of the Jews, and of the two Christian Churches temporarily halted, and the country put on its best behavior.  No previous games had seen such a spectacular organization nor such a lavish display of entertainment.  Goering, Ribbentrop, and Goebbels gave dazzling parties for the foreign visitors .....The visitors, especially those from England and America, were greatly impressed by what they saw; apparently a happy, healthy, friendly people united under Hitler -- a far different picture, they said, than they had got from reading the newspaper dispatches from Berlin."



Sources =

"The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" by William Shirer, Simon & Schuster Publ. 1960